Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the inaugural ceremony of the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court, in The Hague today:
I am honoured to be here to celebrate this landmark occasion with you. The inauguration of the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court is a milestone in global efforts to promote and uphold human rights and the rule of law.
The ties between the United Nations and the International Criminal Court give me great pride. Fourteen years since my predecessor, Kofi Annan, and then-President Philippe Kirsch signed our Relationship Agreement, we continue to stand side by side.
International criminal justice is an integral part of the architecture of international relations. The International Criminal Court is its keystone. Both the Court and the United Nations strive to end impunity and ensure respect for human rights throughout the world. Both seek to ensure that the rule of law will prevail.
To maintain international peace and security, and to safeguard the well-being of nations and communities, human rights violations must be prevented. When they are breached, the perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is particularly true for the most serious crimes of international concern. The dignity and rights of people must be preserved through accountability. And victims should be honoured and respected through the relentless pursuit of justice.
Thanks to this Court, and the commitment of its parties, we have a mechanism to address the most serious violations of international law. No longer can those who commit atrocities be confident that their crimes will go unpunished. No matter how powerful, sooner or later they know they may be compelled to account for their actions.
When civilians are indiscriminately bombed, when rape is used as a weapon of war, when populations are targeted based on ethnicity or faith, when children are forced to carry guns and fight, people can now legitimately expect that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
This is what people want and expect. Governments increasingly want this, too. The International Criminal Court has been instrumental in bringing about this change in attitudes. And it is critical to delivering enduring justice.
It is in all our interest to help the Court achieve its objectives. Its success will be the legacy we leave for future generations. Knowing that justice will be served and that impunity will not stand is an important tool for preventing conflict and deterring egregious crimes against humankind.
I will continue to urge United Nations Member States that are not yet party to the Rome Statute to ratify or accede to it. I also call on all Member States to extend their full cooperation to the Court.
During my tenure, I have become increasingly concerned about the flagrant disregard by too many actors in too many conflict zones of human rights and humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions that protect civilian lives are virtually universally ratified. Many of their core provisions are considered customary international law. In 2005, world leaders also agreed on the responsibility to protect. Yet, terrible abuses still occur.
When Governments fail to enforce the rules and act on the principles they have agreed — or, even worse, are themselves the perpetrators of violations — the result is even more violence, vast disillusion and the erosion of the foundations of international order.
It is time for more determined efforts to save civilian lives and ensure adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law. Only by their actions can nations and their leaders show that they fully support accountability and an end to impunity. Only by their actions can they show that they are committed to upholding human rights.
I fully support this Court and its objectives. The International Criminal Court can continue to count on the full and unwavering support of the United Nations. As it settles into its new home, I would like to sincerely congratulate you and wish the Court every success in its important endeavours for humanity.